MINI Countryman SUV review
"The MINI Countryman is a fun and stylish family car that’s also practical and economical"
- Fashionable MINI image
- Economical engines
- Enjoyable to drive
- Expensive optional extras
- Looks a little ungainly
- No diesel engine
Verdict – is the MINI Countryman a good car?
The MINI Countryman SUV is a great family car that offers the brand’s fashionable and desirable image in a slightly more practical package. Despite its larger size, the Countryman even manages to capture a little of the MINI Hatch’s fun-to-drive character. Its petrol engines are fairly economical, although diesel fans may want to consider the plug-in hybrid version, as the option was discontinued in 2020. The looks could be a little polarising for some buyers and the cost of optional extras can make the Countryman an expensive buy, but it’s definitely worth your attention if you’re looking for a small and stylish SUV.
MINI Countryman models, specs and alternatives
The MINI Countryman SUV caused a stir when it was first released, becoming a trailblazing SUV offering from MINI and flying in the face of the brand’s original small-car ethos. Despite the Countryman being the biggest departure from the spirit of the original MINI, it proved a sales success and became a fixture in the brand’s lineup. The current MINI Countryman is nearing the end of its life, with a replacement due in 2024 that’s set to add an electric variant to the lineup for the first time.
MINI Countryman rivals include the Audi Q2, BMW X1 and Mercedes GLA on the premium end, but buyers may even consider it against other smaller, cheaper SUVs such as the Kia Niro, Renault Captur or Peugeot 2008. The plug-in hybrid version may even tempt buyers considering the Toyota C-HR or even larger PHEVs such as the Ford Kuga.
While its design isn’t for everyone, the MINI Countryman’s larger, more prominent grille, bumpers and roof rails give it a more upright SUV stance than the standard MINI Hatch, but it’s still unmistakably MINI. The brand’s trademark rounded bodywork, large headlights and distinctive grille shape make this possible, while chrome touches, high-quality interior materials and technology give it an upmarket feel.
Reflecting the MINI Countryman’s upmarket feel is its upmarket price. It can seem competitive at first glance, but you’ll need to consider the cost of options which can drive costs up considerably – match a BMW X1 in terms of equipment and you’ll find prices are similar. Buyers are paying for MINI’s image first and foremost, and prices of the Countryman can easily end up breaching those of the class of larger, less-premium SUVs above it. However, the MINI Countryman’s desirable status means it retains more of its value than rivals, so you could find you pay less on a favourable finance agreement.
The Countryman is still a MINI and it retains a sense of fun found in all MINI cars. It’s enjoyable to drive no matter which model you go for, from the entry-level model right up to the powerful and fast John Cooper Works version. Many of the engines are economical as well as smooth and easy to drive.
Countryman buyers have a broad choice of engines to choose from. The least expensive is a 134bhp three-cylinder 1.5-litre petrol that manages up to 44.1mpg without feeling slow. The Cooper S will please those who want a little more power; its 2.0-litre turbocharged engine produces 176bhp and returns similar economy, as long as you don’t make use of all that power. Fuel economy for the four-wheel drive Cooper S All4 model will take a slight hit, and is capable of up to 39.8mpg. A hot John Cooper Works model is also available with a 2.0-litre engine producing 302bhp, with fuel economy of up to 37.2mpg.
The MINI Countryman Plug-In Hybrid, which we've reviewed separately, combines the 1.5-litre three-cylinder engine with an electric motor, producing a total of 217bhp and is faster than the Cooper S, yet claims official economy of 156.9mpg. The best news is that it doesn’t compromise the Countryman’s nimble nature. It's also in the lowest Benefit-in-Kind banding so will appeal to company-car users, though it’s expensive to buy.
So, even if the looks and price don’t appeal to all, there’s little doubt that the engines have what it takes and build quality is excellent too. Thanks to its growth spurt, it’s a lot more family-friendly than the previous model and standard equipment has become more generous and more reflective of what buyers need, with features like sat nav now standard across the range. As well as the entry-level Classic trim level, there's the racy Sport and luxurious Exclusive to choose from, each of which are available with different engine options.
New for 2022 is the Untamed special edition. Said to be inspired by nature, the MINI Countryman Untamed brings dark green upholstery and exclusive graphics and alloy wheels.
Every MINI has its following and every Countryman appeals to different tastes. The practical entry-level Cooper has the urban school-run covered, the plug-in hybrid will suit business drivers in particular and the John Cooper Works delivers strong performance. It’s not cheap – and prices can rise still further once a few choice options have been ticked – but a five-star Euro NCAP rating shows that MINI hasn’t skimped on safety. This makes it a sensible car to buy and a safe one in which to put your family.